"Fraud!" screamed the e-mail.
The note was from a colleague who was ticked off about American Airline's voucher policy. Passengers get these vouchers -- for $100, $200 or whatever -- when they agree to be bumped from an overbooked flight or when the airline is feeling generous and wants to compensate for lost luggage, delayed flights or some other unpleasant experience.
But as my colleague discovered, you can't use these vouchers online; you can only take advantage of the vouchers by making a reservation on the phone or in person. And since American charges $10 to make a reservation over the phone and $15 when you do it in person, that means your $200 voucher isn't worth $200 (or whatever its initial value was). "In other words the face value of every voucher is a lie," my colleague wrote. The airline is forbidding a customer from booking online and then penalizing him/her for not booking online, he added.
American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner said passengers cannot redeem a voucher at AA.com, at least not yet. Redeeming vouchers online "represents a technological challenge for us," he said. The airline hopes to overcome that challenge "but we do not yet have a timeframe for when we can make that happen."
The problem is not unique to American. Travel guru Terry Trippler of cheapseats.com says he hears that complaint a lot. "People don't always get exactly what they thought." He says travelers are often too eager to grab vouchers without realizing there could be a number of restrictions making them less valuable than travelers expected.
Northwest Airlines, he said, has the best voucher system; they are electronic and can be redeemed for anything, such as paying for excess baggage. "It is just like a gift certificate," he said.
But other airlines have restrictions: The vouchers may not be transferable to another person, and they may be good only for economy class seats. And as my colleague discovered they may not be redeemable online, which means there are fees involved.
That may not constitute fraud, but it certainly merits this advice: caveat emptor.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: AA Vouchers | May 15, 2006 8:52 AM
Posted by: ABH | May 15, 2006 10:35 AM
Posted by: mc | May 15, 2006 10:51 AM
Posted by: iolaire | May 15, 2006 11:26 AM
Posted by: Frequent Flyer | May 15, 2006 12:16 PM
Posted by: mg | May 15, 2006 12:30 PM
Posted by: Purveyor of Unfriendly Skies | May 15, 2006 12:49 PM
Posted by: travel | May 15, 2006 1:18 PM
Posted by: Melissa | May 15, 2006 1:45 PM
Posted by: George | May 15, 2006 3:00 PM
Posted by: Zazu | May 15, 2006 4:45 PM
Posted by: Voucher Avoider | May 15, 2006 5:24 PM
Posted by: Busy schedule | May 16, 2006 10:54 AM
Posted by: Kate | May 16, 2006 3:15 PM
Posted by: LMM | May 17, 2006 12:43 PM
Posted by: Kate | May 30, 2006 9:41 PM
Posted by: Elliott Bettman, MD | June 17, 2006 4:26 PM
Posted by: JAKE | August 6, 2006 7:00 PM
Posted by: Martin | September 6, 2006 2:35 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.